At the end of last season it appeared the club had lost faith with André Schubert, and a press conference was called to seemingly announce his sacking. Schubert however walked into the press conference announcing he was staying. “This isn’t what you were expecting, is it?” he quipped to the waiting journalists.
Schubert had won the apparent power struggle within the club, with sporting director Helmut Schulte leaving the club shortly after. One of the main issues that had brought Schubert’s job into question was his relationship, or lack of, with some of the players last season. His authoritarian approach to management had caused tension within the squad; an issue that had sparked the “extreme situation” described by Schubert prior to the last game of the season, with Schubert admitting he had even spoken to his players before the must-win game assuming that it would be his last fixture in charge at the Millerntor.
It came as no great surprise then that Schubert would re-shape the squad in the summer, and try to make his own mark on a team which he inherited from club legend Holger Stanislawski. Taking over from ‘Stani’ was always going to be an unenviable task, but Schubert had just about survived.
The removal of the ‘old guard’ by Schubert saw no less than a dozen players depart the Millerntor over the summer. But arguably, the change saw a loss of quantity rather than quality. Of the 12 players who left, or returned to parent clubs, only Max Kruse, Lasse Sobiech and Moritz Volz had been regular starters last season. Given the success Max Kruse had last season, it seemed inevitable that he would be snapped up by a Bundesliga side if we failed to secure promotion, and so his move to SC Freiburg came as no great surprise.
The same could be said for on-loan defender Sobiech, who had the option to extend his stay at St. Pauli but chose to join Greuther Fürth in the top division. Moritz Volz had been offered a new contract by the club; however he opted to leave and joined 1860 Munich on a free transfer.
The loss of club stalwart and former captain Fabio Morena was disappointing but rational given his lack of first team action in recent seasons. The same justification could be used for Deniz Naki, Charles Takyi and Carsten Rothenbach, all who had been part of the Bundesliga campaign two years ago but had struggled to hold down regular starting places. Whilst these players carried an emotional attachment to the club and the fans, they were unlikely to feature regularly in the plans for next season and their departures reduced a large squad size.
In filling the gaps left in the squad, Schubert sought to acquire quality rather than quantity to replace those who had left, and he pursued familiar faces. Sören Gonther and Florian Mohr, who had both worked with Schubert at Paderborn, were brought in to add quality in central defence with both out of contract at the end of last season.
Ahead of the new season, Schubert has also outlined his plans to change the formation of the team. The club had primarily used a 4-5-1 system during the years of Stani, and it seems Schubert wants to move away from this next season and use a 4-4-2 formation, with more emphasis on strikers and attacking wing play. The club had struggled with goals in the absence of Marius Ebbers at crucial times last season, with Saglik failing to make the most of his limited chances in the first team. Schubert recognised this, and wants to be less dependable on Ebbers for the forthcoming campaign. He has brought in Daniel Ginczek on loan for the season from Dortmund, along with Lennart Thy on a free transfer from Werder Bremen. 21 year-old Ginczek spent last season on loan with Bochum, whilst 20 year-old Thy had featured in Werder Bremen’s U23 side. Both young strikers have made a good impression during pre-season, and the competition for the two starting places upfront is heating up, with Ebbers and Saglik also bagging plenty of goals in recent friendlies. Schubert has praised the quartet of strikers, and said he is confident in every possible pairing ahead of the new season.
The other significant signing is that of Akaki Gogia, a 20 year-old left winger on loan from Wolfsburg, who looks set to fill the void caused by the loss of Max Kruse. It appears likely that Gogia and Bruns or Bartels will provide the width in midfield, with either Daube or Funk partnering captain Boll in the middle.
The only position left to fill ahead of the new season is the left back position. Although the club has Jan-Philipp Kalla and Sebastian Schachten who both played in the position last season, Andre Schubert is keen to finalise a deal for Florian Kringe. The versatile former Borussia Dortmund player can play in defence or midfield, and is available on a free transfer. However the club have yet to reach a deal with the player, with his wages providing a stumbling block. The financing of his transfer may be dependent on another player leaving the club, most likely Carlos Zambrano who has attracted attention from several Bundesliga clubs.
St. Pauli exercised the option in their loan agreement to sign Zambrano towards the end of last season from Schalke. It is reported, although not officially confirmed, that the club paid €600,000 for Zambrano (30%) with the remaining €1.4m (70%) coming from a Swiss-based agency to activate the €2m release clause. St. Pauli are reportedly unwilling to sell the player unless they recoup the €600,000 they paid for him in March. Eintracht Frankfurt were favourites for his signature, but in recent days they have pursued other defenders amid reports they aren’t willing to match the asking price.
Schubert’s summer of change is almost complete, bringing in familiar old faces and young talent to adapt to his new system, but the success of his changes to personnel and style will ultimately be decided on the pitch. Schubert’s ‘new guard’ travel to Aue on Friday 3rd August for the first game of the 2012/13 season.